“Arrow Family Values”

Written by: Judd WInnick
Art by: Cliff Chiang
Published by: DC Comics

Allow me to rant for just a moment. I hate it when comic book companies decide to do publicity stunts rather than rely on solid writing to bolster sales. The debacle that was the phone in vote that lead to the death of Robin many years ago. The death of Superman. The more recent death of Captain America. Breaking the trend of death stunts came Spider-Man’s One Last Day. The real shame is that you don’t have to do this. Not with Green Arrow. This character has an enduring popularity (including his recent stint on Smallville) despite what writers have often done with him.

Green Arrow/Black Canary picks up about a month after the end of the Wedding Special, where Black Canary (Dinah Lance) has to kill a seemingly crazed Green Arrow (Oliver Queen). The ongoing title makes the wedding issue feel even more gimmicky (though the alternative would have been that Oliver Queen was dead. Again.)

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Green Arrow is a well developed character with an interesting and varied history; the kind of character that makes any average story more interesting simply by dropping him in the middle of it. From millionaire playboy to crusading idealist, his feet are quite clay-like, as he has been an absent father to his son, Connor Hawke. Green Arrow also has a wide variety of ancillary characters, including Black Canary, Speedy(HIV-positive Mia Dearden), Arsenal (former addict, Roy Harper, Jr – the original Speedy). The dual billing of the title suggests the that the focus of the book will revolve around these two – the Arrow family with Green Arrow and Black Canary as its head.

“I consider this girl my daughter.” –Black Canary

As a society, the two parent, mother and father, model is the best model for structuring a family. However, let’s not confuse it being the best model with being the only model of a family. We often cling to such a narrow definition of family, which is interesting for a culture that values kicking their young out of the nest as soon as possible and shuttling their parents into nursing homes at their earliest convenience. So let’s not pretend we have the final answer on what it means to be a family. Blood alone does not make you family.

While Judd Winnick aims for a whimsical portrayal of the Green Arrow family, the result is something too quip heavy. The banter is quick to go for the easy laugh which creates an atmosphere that lacks the necessary gravitas to pull off the deep emotional chord pulling he attempts every other issue (from the presumed death of husband/father figure to the near death of son). When he’s not doing near constant joking, Winnick pulls out non-stop action so that no one has time to think about their feelings.

I don’t have faith that Winnick knows what he’s doing with Green Arrow’s character. Each issue feels like a reboot, or at least has an abrupt change in direction and tone. I’m also not a fan of Cliff Chiang’s too cartoony art, though it probably fits with Winnick’s all over the map writing. I just want more from this book and these characters and I’m waiting for DC to quit betting on Winnick.

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